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Letters that relive the angst of love

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PAIN REVISITED Guru Dutt
PAIN REVISITED Guru Dutt

Guru Dutt's letters reveal the portrait of a man consumed by tragedy

Love does not help anyone survive. The loved one always leaves. The words may be of Agha Shahid Ali, not so well known a writer in this part of the world, but they mirror Guru Dutt's thoughts. A man who faced the daggers of fate, desolation of life, deprecation of loneliness, his saga had it all. A lover not revived by love consumed life. What began as a spark ended in ashes - as a 26-year-old filmmaker, Guru Dutt met playback singer Geeta Roy in 1951. A long courtship, troubled marriage, and finally tragic suicide lay in wait. But then Guru Dutt's tragic romance with Geeta Roy, then arguably with Waheeda Rahman, was never a sad song all his own. Now his sorrow, like his dreams, his anxiety, has become public, courtesy Nasreen Munni Kabir who has brought some intimate letters of the legendary filmmaker to the public eye. They tell us what we always suspected: The man in love with Geeta, courted tragedy. In his sorrow lay his craft, his art was just an extension of the artiste. Fine, but is it fair to dig into the life of a man not around to defend himself?Having just put together "Yours Guru Dutt: Intimate Letters of a Great Indian Filmmaker", Nasreen says, "Guru Dutt's son, Arun, showed me the letters two years ago. We deliberated for some time. Some of them were so personal they were only meant for Geeta. Should they be seen? Then we realised that if we did not do anything, in another 20-odd years, they would be no more. They were folded, crumpled, etc. It was a privilege to see these letters. I have not added any masala to them. It is more than 30 years since Geeta passed away. I did not want Geeta to be trivialised even in memory. Nobody will be affected by the contents." "They are very beautiful letters," according to Nasreen, "mirror the same personality as we have got used to on the screen. From the letters it is clear that he was a depressed man. He had suicidal feelings since he was five! But he was able to articulate his pain through his films."Indeed, Guru Dutt could transmute the mundane into the magical on screen, the triumphant into the tragic in life. He died young, perhaps inevitable for somebody who courted death through the written word. Reasons Nasreen, whose work traces Guru Dutt's letters to his wife and two sons, "Most artistes are not sure of what they are making. When Guru Dutt was making films, it was the golden period of Hindi cinema. We had legends like Bimal Roy and Mehboob in the same decade. Guru Dutt then was like a young filmmaker coming up. It could have led to certain complexities of character." Indeed, dissecting it, she states, "He was ahead of his times. But he was brooding, and living with a troubled genius was not always easy for anybody." The point is supported by men who lay stock on the points and slants of handwriting. "His handwriting shows that he was a depressed man," they argue. However, Nasreen has stayed clear of them in this 168-page work brought out by Roli Books. "I have analysed the letters myself. By 1956-57 the letters became more matter-of-fact. That was the time anxiety went into his films." And Nasreen is around to show the pain, the pathos, the words of a dreamer at odds with a wife who was "a realist", a father telling his sons to take care of their mom, a husband full of angst believing his worth shall be known only after his death.ZIYA US SALAM

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